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Freshabit LIFE project improves the state of freshwater habitats in Finland

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EKOenergy and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) participate in the EU LIFE project for freshwater habitats in 2016-2022. Metsähallitus (the Forest and Park Service in Finland) coordinates this large scale project. The partners include state and local authorities and non-governmental organisations. The goal of FRESHABIT is to improve ecological state of lakes, rivers and streams in Finland by various methods, that range from hands-on river restoration to environmental education and research.

 

What is the role of EKOenergy in the project?

We communicate the nature impacts of hydropower

In Finland, hydropower has a reputation as a clean and environmentally friendly form of energy production. Harnessing rivers does, however, result in major damage to freshwater ecosystems. During the project, we disseminate information to the public about the nature impacts of hydropower and possibilities to mitigate them.

  • We organized a seminar on fish passages in Helsinki, Finland on 6th October 2017. It discussed the possibilities of fish passages and bypass channels to mitigate the impacts of hydropower. The event took place on the mouth of Vantaankoski river and included a case study of a mini-hydroplant as a still existing barrier for fish migration. The materials are available in sll.fi/kalatieseminaari.
  • We produced an easy-to-understand web site on nature impacts of hydropower and means for mitigation. Site was published in Finnish in January 2018 at www.vesivoimanluonto.fi
  • We meet annually tens of large energy consumers such as private and state-owned enterprises and tell them of the nature impacts of hydropower. We encourage enterprises to minimize their own impact by changing their electricity contracts from mixed sources of normal hydroelectricity to EKOenergy-labelled energy.
  • We campaign for better acknowledgment of the nature impacts of hydropower in 2018. The campaign is targeted for households and large electricity consumers.

We update EKOenergy’s criteria for hydropower

Since not all hydropower is environmentally sustainable, we need criteria that define which hydropower plants are eligible for producing EKOenergy-labelled electricity. During the project we clear up and update our environmental requirements for hydropower.

As a background study, we analyzed our existing criteria and compared them with other environmental labels for hydropower. We interviewed experts on rivers and hydropower. On the basis of analyses we created a draft for new criteria that are to be piloted in five real plants before the final approval. The EKOenergy Board will finally approve the new criteria for EKOenergy approved hydropower by the end of 2020. The pilot country during the process is Finland, but the new criteria are will be then applied for the rest of Europe.

We develop further the funding model for compensating the environmental impacts of hydropower

The EKOenergy environmental fund annually supports projects that mitigate or compensate the adverse impact of hydropower for nature.

During the project we develop further the compensation mechanisms and ways to collect funds for river restoration projects. The development of the project is based on a careful analyses of present situation and expert interviews.

The fund will be renamed as River Restoration Fund during 2018 and it will then replace the existing Environmental Fund.

WHAT IS LIFE?

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for supporting environmental and climate change projects. The Nature & Biodiversity component of LIFE co-finances best practice nature projects. It focuses on the implementation of the European Birds and Habitats Directives and management of the Natura 2000 network. Natura 2000 is the European network of important nature areas.

Freshabit LIFE is the largest LIFE project ever in Finland.